Monday, December 30, 2013

“Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup with a Soda on the Side”

First off, having a baby sister ten years my junior allows me to have experienced all the wonderful songs, YouTube videos and fun lingo I may not have otherwise been privy too.
This video and catchy tune notwithstanding, for I sing it every time I make this soup. Thank you Meredith!

I love soups, stews, chilies – one pot wonders that will fill you up and feed you for days! Often when I’ve been writing about food, having a food photoshoot for a book or magazine or discussing menus with clients, the last thing I want to do is go home and cook. Yet, cooking is my therapy too – being a foodie is a tangled web indeed.


My chicken noodle soup is simple. I think it is delicious (toot toot goes my own horn) and it cooks up fast and will feed pharaoh’s army – a highly desirable trait for a dish in my family! I also like that this recipe is basic enough to appeal to year round flavors. Of course, during the winter, I crave this warm soup with some leafy kale and carrots, but I’ve found that basil or lemon thyme are delightful additions in the summertime as are sage and rosemary in the fall and chervil in the spring.

There are two ways to make this soup – neither of which are right or wrong. There is the homemade version where you stew a hen, make your own stock, cut the kale and herbs from your garden etc etc etc and then there’s the quick and easy version – the latter I find myself preparing more often than the former! PTL (Praise The Lord for those not brought up in the Bible Belt) for store bought rotisserie chickens!

Farmer’s Note: This “recipe” is more of a read through, thus you can cook to your liking. Enjoy y’all!

What you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 rotisserie chicken (the flavor really doesn’t matter)
  • ½ a large Vidalia or red onion, chopped
  • 3-4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups carrots, cut into rounds
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 3 cups egg noodles
  • 4 cups of kale (shredded, torn or julienned)
  • ½ cup fresh parsley roughly chopped
  • Tablespoon of Nature’s Seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Like my Mimi, just about any dish I make starts with browning onions. Onions are marvelous but divine when browned. A little oil for temperature and butter for flavor, I brown the onions and season them well. Salt and pepper to your liking and add some Nature Seasoning too.

Once the onions are brown, add the garlic and celery. Also like Mimi did, I like using lots of celery – it is like parsley to me, for the flavor is often forgotten since they’re used as garnishes and a healthy addition to buffalo wing platters.

Once the garlic and parsley are softened I add the stock. Make or buy it depending on your time but a good two quarts is plenty. You can always add water and bullion to reduce or increase the stock amount. I like a little broth with my soup so you may want to increase the stock/liquid if you prefer more of a soupy soup!

Pull the chicken from the bone and add to the stock, onions, celery and garlic. Bring the soup to a gentle boil. Add the carrots. I don’t like the carrots to be too mushy, so I add them toward the end – even at the end. A bit of crunch is just fine!

Add the egg noodles then the kale. The noodles cook fast and the kale wilts just about immediately. Season further to taste and serve hot!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas from JFI!!!

Rejoice! Rejoice! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in downtown Perry! Carroll Street is festooned with greenery and lit up ever so lovingly – home for the holidays is truly a delight. We hope to see y’all downtown this Christmas season!

From all of us at James Farmer Inc, we wish the season’s blessings upon your homes – your homes and thus their stories that you have so graciously allowed us to be a part. 

Merry Christmas, y’all!

 (Jason, Sami, Stacey, James, Laura Lyn)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Some are Silver and the Others Gold – Solid Gold

I honestly hate having to think about all the good things Maggie Marie Coody Griffin has done for me. The reason being is that they totally outweigh anything I’ve ever done for her! She never forgets a birthday, a special event, a thank you note, a detail – y’all the girl is just on the ball! 


During her birthday week, she threw me a party! I should’ve been throwing her a party but twas MCG hosting and cooking and decorating for me – lawdy! I was heading to Gainesville for a booksigning, thus Maggie planned a party. The girl can plan a party at the drop of a hat – one reason we became fast friends as children! She sent invites that she painted (to coordinate with the menus mind you) and even cooked recipes from A Time to Cook for her guests. We feasted on one of my favorites – a fruit and cheese plate –  pork tenderloin, Sea Island corn muffins, bacon wrapped asparagus with tarragon butter and sinfully amazing chocolate chip bars. The dessert may have been our breakfast the next day too!

Speaking of guests, Maggie is so good at assembling a great group. She invited friends of ours in Gainesville as well as new friends to be made that night. We laughed and ate until too late on a “school night” but had a blast anyways! And speaking of a good time, as fun as a dinner party is a la Chez Griffin, the slumber party just may rival the soiree; for, Maggie and her husband, David, have both been friends of mine since childhood. We three can simply talk and laugh and tell stories all night. Add a precious, beautiful baby in the mix is that much more fun!  Being “Uncle Jay” to Baby Henry is just gravy!


The three of us end up staying up way too late telling and reliving funny stories from elementary school to college! A piece or two of Buttermilk Pie’s famous  pecan, chocolate/peanut butter, coconut or, well, buttermilk  (or all the above), is usually consumed with a glass of milk to keep us well nourished during our late night laughs. There is hardly anything better for the heart and soul than to laugh – especially with friends you’ve shared your heart and soul with most of your life.


The menu, the food, the fellowship, the décor – it was all fabulous! Maggie’s sister-in-law is my office manager. Laura Lyn has told me that if I’m “good for one thing, it’s picking up sticks and flowers.” Well, not to disappoint the family, I proceeded with my “good for one thing” so I could at least be somewhat useful for Maggie’s party.

Sticks and flowers I can do! The Griffins live in a beautiful wooded, lakeside neighborhood that was ablaze with fall color. Branches of hickory, oak, abelia and dogwood filled Maggie’s Mama Doris’ butter churn as well as some of my favorite blue and white jardinières on the mantle. Dried blossoms of limelight hydrangea mixed delightfully with cotton bolls and pampas grass plumes and fall foliage along the tabletops in a mix of mercury glass and woven-wicker glass jars. 


Being at a party like this, the nursery rhyme song of making new friends but keeping the old plays through my head – and this song is Maggie Griffin to a tee! Some are silver and some are gold, but, y’all, I’m here to say, that this friend is solid gold!!! Mr. Griffin ain’t too shabby either! Thank you Maggie and David for being my friends to me today, yesterday and for years to come! I hope I can only be as kind, generous, thoughtful and supportive to you as you have been to me. The standard is set, y’all, and the standard isc nothing short of solid gold!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Does the Fox Say?

This age old question has beguiled our brains for centuries – what does the fox say? Thankfully, a brotherly duo from Norway has quelled this quandary – thank you Bård (the blonde one) and Vegard (brown hair).

Upon hearing their catchy tune, I thought about Friederich, the trophy fox my brother-in-law Zach had mounted earlier this year.  My sister Maggie adhered to the good ol’ Southern expression quoted in Steel Magnolias, “… either shoot it, stuff it or marry it.” Maggie happily stuck with the latter.

Just what was Friederich trying to tell me? What does he say? Well, leave it to me to translate his desires as the following: “I wish to be the Thanksgiving centerpiece!”

I granted Friederich his request and even placed him as the centerpiece on the grown-ups’ table – not the lowly kids’ table. Our family’s new rule of order is if you have issued a child, you are granted an elevation from the kids’ table to “big table.” Yet, Baby Napp sat at the “big table” and not with Brubbs, SissyMama and the other “chillrun”… how did he swing that? I digress… 

There is no denying my love for a taxidermy, or “taxidermy-chic” if you will. Antler mounts, stuffed trophies, turtle shells and feathers all find their way into my design schemes and tablescapes. Quite fortunately, I have a brother-in-law, cousins, uncles and friends who are mighty hunters and provide me with a gracious plenty for my designs. 

Y’all may have seen my Southern Living Thanksgiving spread last month, and so my Big Mama’s (Mimi’s grandmother, thus my great, great-grandmother) turkey plates are a mainstay at our family table. As Mimi always said, “We eat with our eyes first…” so I find it important for the table and food’s presentation to be the first feasting. With Friederich keeping watch over the flock of turkeys, I interspersed some of Aunt Kathy’s Italian painted plates depicting other woodland and water creatures. Upon our tables, one could find a raft, a brace and a flush of ducks; a skein, a gaggle, a herd and a corps of geese; a pack of wolves; and of course, an earth, a leash, a skulk or troop of foxes. I absolutely adore the nomenclature of animal groupings!

Pumpkins, Granny Smith apples, pine boughs and nandina berries scattered the table too, thus creating a Southern, autumnal plank of foliage and fruit for Friederich to pose. As for the candlesticks, I found a bunch of old spools from a textile factory to serve as the pillar candle bases on the “big table” and my trusty antler candelabra for the “kids’ table.” Yet, for the kids’ table, I veered away from the traditional autumnal palette and stuck to my all-time favorite color scheme – blue and white.

To me, blue and white is neutral. The sky is blue and white most of the time and I find this classic pairing bodes so well in any season, pattern, color scheme and setting. Mixing more of Aunt Kathy’s blue and white painted plates with some Blue Willow “blue plate specials” was an easy choice for me. If you’ve ever wondered where the “blue plate special” came from, well take a gander at these divided dinner plates and you’ll learn. Often, the special of the day at a restaurant was served on a blue plate, many times a Blue Willow plate mind you, and thus the term became synonymous with a dinner or lunch special. Like myself and my family, no one individual is perfect. We all have our scars, chips, dings and dents, so if your plates do too, then welcome them still to your table.

Blue plaid and blue striped linens, a mix of mine, Mama’s, Aunt Kathy’s, Mimi’s and Aunt Irene’s silver, amber hued tumblers and goblets, bubble glass tumblers and jelly jars all melded together with the dinnerware and décor to create a tableau of generational and aesthetic delight. This year we knew was going to be different and bittersweet without Mimi, yet we managed. We held Thanksgiving on Friday which gave us an extra day to set tables and cook and keep our minds busy more so.

Mimi, though was there. She is now like the silver, some of the plates and linens – not necessarily present as a whole but positively tarnished, chipped and frayed into the very fabric of each one of us. Thanks and giving – that is what the day is truly about; and, for me, setting the tables allows me to share the bits and pieces of my legacy, my heart really, at each place setting. From this Farmer’s table to yours, thanks for giving me the chance to share a little bit of my family with y’all. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what the fox is really saying after all.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tablescape for Turkeys!

I love setting a table, period. Setting just for dinner, for a grand soiree or for an event proper, setting a table is a quick fix for flexing your creative prowess. It is also a conquerable task, as opposed to waking up at three in the morning and deciding you want to redo your living room – the latter also a battle this Farmer faces regularly.


The conquerable task portion of table setting is that the urge to create, craft, complement and decorate all meld together and gives a scratch to the itch to do something  fun with design. For the entry table in my shop, I had the itch to bring together some of my favorite elements and set the table for my favorite season – fall. 

An antique set of fish plates, Aunt Kathy’s fabulous Provvista dinnerware, grasscloth chargers, amber hued tumblers and goblets, a pumpkin centerpiece and candles too, were, of course, highlighted with some brown and white gingham linens and faux bois flatware. My antique French mutton leg chairs with their original green velvet were just too yummy not to pull up to the deep English cherry round table. 


The tones and textures of fall all fell together onto this tablescape. I’m thinking red and green now but just wanted to savor the season with this particular cornucopia of elements. Thanksgiving is behind us, but I hope as the generations gather at your table in years to come, you find some inspiration from mine. From my table to yours, happy fall y’all and Thanksgiving too!
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